District’s budget math is all about subtraction

Most of the cuts School District 51 has made over the past few years to deal with declining state revenue have come in areas not readily apparent to the average citizen.

That won’t be the case when school begins next fall. Parents, students and the community at large will feel the pinch from cuts that must be made to carve $5 million out of next year’s budget.

Those cuts should be a wake-up call for this community about how we value quality education.

The substantial cuts announced this week won’t be the last of the cuts for next year. Even more are expected after the state Legislature finalizes next year’s budget in May, and if an anticipated drop in student enrollment occurs next fall.

No one can deny that the cuts announced this week are going to have a real impact on education in the Grand Valley.

✔ There will be 42 fewer teaching positions and related certified staff jobs come the start of the 2011-2012 school year. The result will likely be larger class sizes in some places and reduced class offerings in others.

✔ Summer school programs, which are aimed at helping students who are struggling academically, will be reduced or eliminated.

✔ Two schools, Valley East in Palisade and the just-opened elementary school on Glade Park, will lose all of their funding.

Other changes won’t have such a direct effect on academics, but they will have an impact, nonetheless.

Parents will pay more to have their middle-school and high-school students involved in athletics. And local law enforcement agencies, which have said they plan to continue providing in-school resource officers, will have to do so without any financial reimbursement from the school district.

It is a depressing litany of cuts that is likely to look even bleaker later this year. And it raises a critical question for this community: Just how important is maintaining a quality education system?

In strictly economic development terms, there’s little dispute that a solid school system is important in growing business and attracting new businesses and new residents to the area. And for the children of this community, it is critical in preparing them to make their way in the 21st century, where education beyond high school is more important than ever.

Moreover, it’s not as if District 51 is a profligate school district. It has one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in Colorado, a state that itself ranks low in per-pupil spending. The district’s administrative costs are also on the low end, compared to other districts in the state.

For the Grand Valley to continue to be an attractive place to live, raise children and conduct business, we must place a high value on a quality public education system, and we must begin discussing ways to see that our existing system can be maintained.


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